Autistic student offers insight on sensory hallways being created at Clements/Parsons

 In Central Texas, Copperas Cove

All Copperas Cove ISD elementary schools now have sensory classrooms to provide students with calming atmospheres where they can destress, refocus, and return to the learning environment.

Clements/Parsons Elementary’s Maker Club, funded through a grant by the Copperas Cove Education Foundation, is taking it several steps further and creating sensory hallways in each of the grade level areas. The project was proposed by Principal Jennifer Maples.

“The students have been working together prepping, strategizing, and planning to create beneficial interactive sensory and learning hallways with a series of guided movements for children to follow, shown by markings on the ground or walls,” Maples said. “As students follow the path and complete the movements, they work off excess energy and develop their gross motor skills.”

Members of the Maker Club include 22 fifth graders and one fourth grader, Alex Garza, who have been working together to research and plan the sensory walking path. Alex has a unique perspective in that he has autism and shares his insight with the team of students ensure what is being created will actually help students who are struggling. Alex does not usually join clubs or organizations because they can be overwhelming for him. But the Maker Club has been a haven in which he has been welcomed and his voice and opinion are heard.

“This is what I always wanted…to know that his peers have welcomed him in so effortlessly, it means the world to me,” Alex’s mother, Briana Garza said.

Alex gives his opinions on which color will look the best or the placement of things as the sensory hallways are being planned.

Club Adviser Adrianna Fox said the students make every effort to ensure Alex feels welcomed and is involved in each session of the club.

“He doesn’t just sit on the sidelines. Students make sure that he is included in the planning of each project,” Fox said. “The positive atmosphere he brings to Maker Club really sets the tone and environment of the club.”

Fox said the club teaches kids how to work together and use different life skills including teamwork, creative thinking, problem-solving, how to work machinery, computer programming and marketing skills they will use in everyday life. The club works to make all students feel welcomed and included ensuring that everyone’s voice and an opinion are heard.